Friday, June 12, 2015
I enjoy reading newspapers when I travel as they provide another window into what is on the minds of local people. Last week, I came across what appeared to be a regular column addressing questions of law, with the title: "Wills: Don't Wait Until Tomorrow." The article began:
"Often completion of a will is seen as a bad omen, as acceleration of a fact that should naturally occur but, you hope, not soon. However, the [proper] execution of this document, in addition to giving possessions according to one's wishes, can prevent future litigation."
Sound advice, correct? The opening was followed by descriptions of procedures for use with informal or holographic wills versus formal wills that are executed before a notary. What intrigued me, however, was this advice on how to avoid litigation over estates was in Granma, the "official newspaper of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba." While visiting Cuba for the first time last week as part of a small Penn State Faculty group tour, I was surprised to learn there was more private ownership of property than I had expected in Cuba. Now I would be interested in knowing more about how and why any disputes over bequests or inheritance of privately owned assets or property tend to arise in Cuba.
In Cuba, as in other Latin American countries, lawyers can have a specific role as a "notary" in formalizing documents including wills; this role is not the same as the more ministerial role of notaries as witnesses in the U.S.
It appears that in Havana, execution of a will can also include filing it with a central Registry, or, in other provinces, with an office in the local court. To preserve confidentiality, the testator has the option of registering only certain basic data, such as his or her name and date of completion of the will, and the identity of the notary, rather than the full content of the bequests.
The translation of this article from its original Spanish, written by Onaisys Fonticoba, is mine -- and is admittedly a bit rough, even with the help of Google Translate. Granma is also published on the internet in several languages, including English, although the editions are not identical. Granma, the name of the newspaper, is a tribute to the name of the "yacht" used by Fidel and his fellow fighters when he returned to Cuba in 1956.
Thursday, June 11, 2015
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report dated May, 2015 on Retirement Security: Most Households Approaching Retirement Have Low Savings. The 51 page report is available here. The GAO offered this summary:
Many retirees and workers approaching retirement have limited financial resources. About half of households age 55 and older have no retirement savings (such as in a 401(k) plan or an IRA). According to GAO's analysis of the 2013 Survey of Consumer Finances, many older households without retirement savings have few other resources, such as a defined benefit (DB) plan or nonretirement savings, to draw on in retirement (see figure below). For example, among households age 55 and older, about 29 percent have neither retirement savings nor a DB plan, which typically provides a monthly payment for life. Households that have retirement savings generally have other resources to draw on, such as non-retirement savings and DB plans. Among those with some retirement savings, the median amount of those savings is about $104,000 for households age 55-64 and $148,000 for households age 65-74, equivalent to an inflation-protected annuity of $310 and $649 per month, respectively. Social Security provides most of the income for about half of households age 65 and older...
Studies and surveys GAO reviewed provide mixed evidence about the adequacy of retirement savings. Studies range widely in their conclusions about the degree to which Americans are likely to maintain their pre-retirement standard of living in retirement, largely because of different assumptions about how much income this goal requires. The studies generally found about one-third to two-thirds of workers are at risk of falling short of this target. In surveys, compared to current retirees, workers age 55 and older expect to retire later and a higher percentage plan to work during retirement. However, one survey found that about half of retirees said they retired earlier than planned due to health problems, changes at their workplace, or other factors, suggesting that many workers may be overestimating their future retirement income and savings. Surveys have also found that people age 55-64 are less confident about their finances in retirement than those who are age 65 or older
Highlights of the GAO report are available here.
Wednesday, June 10, 2015
Mark your calendars. The date for the WHCOA has been set for July 13, 2015. The event is going to be webcast live. Folks are encouraged to watch it and even tweet questions for the panelists at the conference. For more ideas and information, click here.
An essay I read when it was first published in the New York Times Magazine in 2010, "What Broke My Father's Heart," has stayed with me. It is the deeply personal tale of a journalist-daughter's observation of her father's last years, as his pacemaker kept his heart pumping while dementia destroyed his quality of life. The daughter, Katy Butler, later turned the story, supplemented by impressive research, into a book, Knocking on Heaven's Door: The Path to a Better Way of Death.
In the essay, one of the key moments in the chronology was when Katy's father faced the prospect of surgery for a painful inguinal hernia, which doctors were not willing to perform unless his weak heart was first aided by implementation of a pacemaker. Earlier, his father, while still competent, had rejected a pacemaker, but the decision was now in the hands of his wife because of his dementia:
"When [Dr.] Rogan suggested the pacemaker for the second time, my father was too stroke-damaged to discuss, and perhaps even to weigh, his tradeoffs. The decision fell to my mother — anxious to relieve my father’s pain, exhausted with caregiving, deferential to doctors and no expert on high-tech medicine. She said yes. One of the most important medical decisions of my father’s life was over in minutes."
Ms. Butler makes it pretty clear that if the decision had been hers alone, she would not have made the same choice as her mother. Additional research demonstrates the medical, moral and legal dilemmas faced by all parties in considering the use of pacemakers for the elderly. For example, in "Pacing Extremely Old Patients: Who decides -- the doctor, the patient, or the relatives?," two physicians in the U.K. report on a three-case study where individuals, family members and doctors were not in agreement about implantation of pacemakers for patients aged 101, 90, and 87.
Tuesday, June 9, 2015
A recent article from the Washington Post focused on an important topic, whether aging comes naturally to us. I don't mean physiologically, because as we all know, we age without any conscious effort on our parts. Instead, Aging doesn’t always come naturally. Classes are teaching boomers how. focuses on a program on how to age successfully. Is there a need for a program to tell us how to do well something that just seems to happen? "[B]oomers tend to see themselves as forever young and have sometimes been reluctant to embrace the last stage of life with the same gusto as their youthful activism, said Lylie Fisher, director of community development at Iona" (a non-profit that runs the programs). Iona offers a Take Charge/Age Well academy which according to the website, teaches students "how to navigate the opportunities and challenges of aging through presentations from Iona’s aging-in-place specialists. The specialists offer expert advice, wellness coaching, guidance on critical decision-making, and information on planning for the future. " The Post article also mentions co-housing, which is covered in one of the programs.
Check out the article, as well as the program's website. Very interesting!
On June 5, 2015, the Attorney General for Pennsylvania announced filing of a civil suit, seeking permanent injunctive relief against a lawyer and his law firm, for tactics alleged to violate state unfair trade practice and debt collection laws. The allegations include misuse of Pennsylvania's filial support law to demand payment by family members for medical service fees incurred by the original debtor. Here is the link to the AG's press release.
Boy, it's been a tough month already for Pennsylvania debt collectors! The AG's suit is not against the same law firm involved in the Second Circuit's decision reported here earlier this week.
Monday, June 8, 2015
The Wall Street Journal ran an interesting article on May 31 about longevity and how to have a fulfilling life with those extra years of living. How to Make the Most of Longer Lives focuses not just on planning financially for living longer, but questions what to do with those added years to be sure one has a meaningful life. The author suggests "[w]e need to marshal imagination and ingenuity to devise new strategies for enhancing the whole range of experiences in later life, including education, faith, housing, work, finance and community" and then offers six suggestions to increase the quality of life: (1) give a new name to this period of life; (2) smooth the way to transition into this part of life (or as the author explains it retirement and then "un-retirement" is "a do-it-yourself process. It’s time to help make this post-midlife passage more efficient and suited to preparing individuals emotionally and spiritually for what lies ahead."); (3) education specifically for the second half of life (4) financial security; (5) promote multi-generational housing; (6) create a model where inventors brainstorm new ideas for this part of life.
The author concludes with reference to the upcoming White House Conference on Aging and the challenges that await all of us with aging.
In Eades v. Kennedy PC Law Offices, decided June 4, 2015, the Second Circuit ruled that a federal court in New York has personal jurisdiction to address alleged unfair debt collection practices of a Pennsylvania law firm in seeking to collect unpaid nursing home fees totaling $8,000. The plaintiffs, New York residents -- the husband and adult daughter of a woman in a Pennsylvania nursing home -- challenged statements in correspondence and phone communications allegedly made by the Pennsylvania law firm. The claims against the daughter were based on Pennsylvania's filial support law.
As reported on this Blog in December 2013, the United States District Court for the Western District of New York dismissed the suit, finding no personal jurisdiction and further rejecting application of the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). The Second Circuit's ruling concludes, however, that the law firm's "three purposeful contacts with New York," of mailing a debt collection notice to the New York family members, engaging in a debt collection phone call with the daughter, and mailing a summons and complaint to both the daughter and the nursing home resident's husband, are enough to establish personal jurisdiction under New York's long-arm statute. Further, the defendant law firm had not shown that exercise of such jurisdiction was unreasonable.
On the questions raised by the FDCPA claims, the Second Circuit rejected several key arguments by the plaintiffs, concluding that Pennsylvania's filial support law is not preempted by the Nursing Home Reform Act's prohibition on nursing homes requiring third party guarantees of payment:
June 8, 2015 in Consumer Information, Ethical Issues, Federal Cases, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Legal Practice/Practice Management, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)
Sunday, June 7, 2015
Friday, June 5, 2015
The 10th Anniversary of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day will be here soon. The First Global Summit in recognition of the 10th Anniversary is set for June 15, 2015 in Washington, D.C. You can view the agenda here. To register, click here.
Thursday, June 4, 2015
PBS did a story that is compelling. Number of seniors threatened by hunger has doubled since 2001, and it’s going to get worse offers that "[n]early one in six senior citizens face the threat of hunger in the United States. Charity and food stamps reach some of these vulnerable Americans, but limited resources and isolation mean many are struggling without receiving help." The audio of the story as well as a transcript is available here. The story reviews the importance of social service programs, which may be hampered by long wait lists, food banks and more that provide some assistance. As I mentioned, this is a compelling story. It's also sad. Thanks to my colleague, Professor James Fox, for sending me the link to the story.
Wednesday, June 3, 2015
The Employee Benefits Research Institute (EBRI) has released the results of their annual retirement confidence survey. The 2015 Retirement Confidence Survey is available here. There are also 7 fact sheets that highlight specific findings, including caregivers, retirement confidence, changing expectations, preparing for retirement, age comparisons, gender & marital status, and attitudes about Social Security & Medicare.
On March 17, 2015, Missouri executed "convicted cop killer Cecil Clayton." Clayton's prosecution was a matter of much legal commentary from the very outset of his arrest and prosecution in the 1990s, because of the documented history of removal of 1/5 of the frontal lobe of his brain following a sawmill accident in the 1970s.
However, as his prosecution, appeals, and post-conviction challenges wended their way through state and federal courts on issues of effective assistance of counsel, insanity and mental defect, an additional cognitive impairment was underway. By the time of his execution Clayton was reported to be Missouri's "oldest death row prisoner" at age 74 and at least five years before his last day, he had been diagnosed with progressive, neurological deterioration, consistent with "dementia."
The last court to consider the Clayton's last (and last minute) challenges to the death penalty, the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri, wrote on the same day as his execution:
Should the Atkins [v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304 (2002)] reasoning be applied, by analogy, to cases involving persons with physical brain damage and progressive deterioration, and an Atkins-like evaluation performed to determine whether the death penalty may be properly imposed? It seems fair to analogize the diminished capacity of the mentally retarded that lessens personal culpability and prohibits execution of the mentally retarded...to those whose physical brain damage and progressive deterioration have, for example, lessened their capacity to meaningfully participate in legal proceedings. Using a different analogy, it would be difficult to imagine, for example, that a civilized society would execute a person who was not mentally retarded at the time of the commission of a capital crime, but who subsequently developed advanced Alzheimer's disease by the time of the execution.
Ultimately, the court ruled that no relief was available to Clayton on the record before it, but the court clearly was concerned about the potential for evidence of post-conviction dementia to establish independent grounds for a valid 8th Amendment challenge. The court concluded:
Again, at this very late date, the question of whether the death penalty can be imposed against a person such as Clayton with physical brain damage—a hole in his frontal lobe—associated with progressive deterioration over time, has not been litigated here, and it may be too late. In the time available, the Court cannot conclude under the deferential AEDPA standard that the Missouri Supreme Court's decision should be disturbed.
For more on the litigation history of Clayton's mental impairment(s), see Clayton v. Al Luebbers, 2015 WL 1208786 (W.D. Mo., May 17, 2015).
Tuesday, June 2, 2015
A few days back I wrote about a new study on family caregivers published by Pew. The Employee Benefits Research Institute (EBRI) has added to the body of literature on the topic with its 2015 Fact Sheet #7 from EBRI's 2015 Retirement Confidence Survey. Financial Support & Unpaid Care Provided by Americans The purpose of the annual survey is to gather data about "potential barriers in building up assets or maintaining them." One question "[I]n particular, [asked about] the amount of financial support provided for relatives or friends and the amount of unpaid care provided for them as well." Perhaps the results will surprise you. "Three in 10 (29 percent) workers and 2 in 10 (20 percent) retirees report they are currently providing financial support to a relative or friend." The survey also inquired about unpaid care, which as we know has a cost to the caregiver. When asked respondents whether they provided unpaid care, the survey found "[t]wenty-three percent of workers and 16 percent of retirees responded that they did so."
The fact sheet offers a couple of other interesting data points. The spouse is actually not frequently the recipient of the care, with "5 percent of retirees and 4 percent of workers name their spouse as a recipient of their care." As far as the amount of time spent providing care, slightly over 40% of workers and a little under 40% of retirees provided fewer than 9 hours a week in care.
Monday, June 1, 2015
The Florida Joint Public Policy Task Force for the Aged and Disabled urges individuals, families and attorneys to bring emerging problems with Medicaid Managed Care in Florida to the attention of administrators at the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA). Only by staying on top of any problems can the new systems be evaluated and corrected.
In the Florida Bar News, the Task Force writes:
One issue the Task Force — a combined effort of the Academy of Florida Elder Law Attorneys and The Florida Bar’s Elder Law Section — is concerned about is that seniors on Medicaid may be signing forms allowing their Medicaid managed care plans (MCP) to take control over who receives information from the state, including notices for annual deadlines for ongoing eligibility, without understanding what they are signing. This led to an MCP missing the deadline for at least one client.
“A wife was understandably very upset when she found out her husband’s Medicaid had been cancelled,” says Emma Hemness, the president of the Academy of Florida Elder Law Attorneys, Task Force member and elder law attorney in Brandon. “The MCPs are supposed to make sure this doesn’t happen. The wife says she never received a notice and she doesn’t remember giving any authority to the MCP.
Sunday, May 31, 2015
The GAO has issued a new report on how Home & Community Based Services & Supports are delivered. Older Adults Federal Strategy Needed to Help Ensure Efficient and Effective Delivery of Home and Community-Based Services and Supports is a 60 page report that "addresses (1) federal programs that fund these services and supports for older adults, (2) how these services and supports are planned and delivered in selected localities, and (3) agencies’ efforts to promote a coordinated federal system of these services and supports." The GAO recommends in the report "that HHS facilitate development of a cross agency federal strategy to ensure efficient and effective use of federal resources for HCBS. HHS concurred and HUD, DOT, and USDA did not comment." A number of topics are covered, including transportation, aging in place, information and referral, housing, in-home services, and food assistance. The report discusses the importance of cross-agency collaboration. The GAO concludes that
As the older population continues to grow, communities will find it increasingly difficult to meet the demand for the HCBS and supports many older adults will need to age in their own homes and communities. Based on recent trends, federal funding at AoA, HUD, and DOT for HCBS and supports is not likely to keep pace with demand for these services and supports, making it important to ensure that the federal resources available for this purpose are used effectively and efficiently. Development of a cross-agency federal strategy could better position the federal agencies to assist area agencies on aging and community-based organizations with providing HCBS and supports in the most efficient and effective manner. Under the Older Americans Act, AoA is responsible for facilitating the provision of home and community-based services and supports for older adults in this country, in coordination with CMS and other federal agencies. As a result, AoA is well-positioned to lead collaboration among the five federal agencies covered in our review. However, because of increases in Medicaid spending and emphasis on the role of HCBS in supporting health care patients, CMS has become an even more important partner to AoA in meeting older adults’ expected demand for HCBS. Thus, it may be most appropriate for the HHS Secretary to take the initiative in developing such a cross-agency federal strategy.
Saturday, May 30, 2015
The Washington Post recently profiled Alzheimer's activist Michael Ellenbogen, including the possibility that the very disease he's urging public authorities to confront by committing to find a cure, has impaired his ability to use sound judgment about his tactics:
When Michael Ellenbogen calls for a more aggressive fight against Alzheimer’s disease, he speaks with passion that comes from experience. As someone who was diagnosed with early-onset dementia, Ellenbogen can convey firsthand the pain and frustration at what he sees as insufficient government support for research to find a cure or better treatments.
But to some, Ellenbogen’s passion recently went too far.
After he submitted remarks to the national Advisory Council on Alzheimer’s Research, Care and Services that mentioned the Columbine massacre — asking whether it would require a mass shooting by someone with dementia to draw more attention to the crisis — the Department of Health and Human Services deemed Ellenbogen a security threat. The federal agency, which hosts the council’s meetings, banned him from its premises.
For the full story, see Frederick Kunkle's article More People with Alzhemier's Are Becoming Activists -- Which Brings Its Own Challenges.
Friday, May 29, 2015
Light blogging ahead for me, as I will be leaving in a couple of days for my first visit to Cuba, as part of a small Penn State University faculty group. I'm confident I will have plenty of things to do with my time other than searching for an elusive internet café!
Seriously, I'm excited, on a number of levels. First, I lived for several years in a Cuban-immigrant neighborhood in Miami at the end of law school, and many of my fellow judicial clerks and friends were the first generation sons and daughters of Cuban refugees. Second, I've been educated by my Irish friend, Dr. Una Lynch, to appreciate the world-wide significance of the Cuban health care system, and I'm eager to see how they accomplish much with comparatively few resources. Third, my Elder Law colleague, Amos Goodall Esq., State College, PA, has shared great suggestions for art and food. Plus, Attorney Karen Miller (NY and Florida) has shared her contacts with me from her travels and studies about law in Cuba. ¡Gracias a todos!
Here are a couple of items from some of my background reading on Cuba, including health care and aging statistics:
Turning to Cuba, let us examine the possible consequences of the tendency towards population aging that we have described. In the economic field, the consequences include an accelerated demand for the funds to cover social security expenditures. In fact, since 1970 funds budgeted for old-age, disability and death benefits have quintupled. National budget expenditures for social security are higher than those of any other sector (e.g. education, health, defense, etc.) (Cuban National Statistics Office, 1999 "c").
At the same time, as the average age of Cuba's workforce increases over the coming years, we will see a deficit of workers for labor requiring greater physical effort, especially for agriculture, construction and industry, among others. Consequently, the main economic difficulty Cuba faces today-as it did during the colonial period and at the beginning of the 20th century-is an insufficient workforce.
From Aging in Cuba, Realities and Challenges, byAlberta Duran Gondar and Ernesto Chavez Negrin.
During her recent visit to Havana in July of 2014, Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), impressed by the country's achievements in this field, praised the Cuban health care system: "Cuba is the only country that has a health care system closely linked to research and development. This is the way to go, because human health can only improve through innovation," She also praised "the efforts of the country's leadership for having made health an essential pillar of development."
Thursday, May 28, 2015
Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies has issued their 16th Annual Retirement Survey of Older Workers. Retirement Throughout the Ages: Expectations & Preparations of American Workers was released in May of 2015. The 81 page report offers a number of key highlights, including views by age group (in ten year increments). The report provides recommendations for workers, employers and policymakers. The report offers this conclusion
Workers of all ages have similar challenges, dreams, fears, and expectations of retirement. Depending on their age and stage in life, they also face unique opportunities to improve their long-term financial security. Although it may seem overwhelming for many, taking one step at a time can lead to significant improvements over the long-term. The following three pages of these Key Highlights outline such steps for workers, employers, and policymakers.
It’s never too soon or too late to start saving and planning for retirement.
You can join us via telephone or email this evening, May 28, starting at 9 p.m. (ET) to discuss the new PBS documentary, Caring for Mom & Dad that airs at 8 p.m. on WPSU-TV. Our conversation begins at 9 p.m.. Details available here.
A recording of today's "Conversations Live," hosted by Patti Satalia, will be available about 48 hours after the original show for viewing on-line at WPSU.psu,edu.